The Mother of Invention
Get to know the survival journey of Rosanna Radding, our Tips & Tricks columnist and founder of OneHandCan.com.
"Get used to it."
That is what Rosanna Radding’s neurologist told her three months after a stroke left her unable to use her left side.
Rosanna preparing a wax model for one of her jewelry designs
“We were devastated. My partner Carol and I both cried. Until then, we had never thought about me not being able to do more. We never even let it enter our heads,” Rosanna remembered.
At that point, Rosanna was not walking well and felt unstable in her gait. She couldn’t do anything with her left hand and couldn’t raise her left arm. She was dealing with severe left neglect, a common post-stroke condition for those with right-brain injury in which the use and awareness of the left side of the body is limited or absent.
New Year’s Eve 1994, at age 43, Rosanna experienced a TIA. Out of the blue, the entire left side of her body felt very heavy, and her speech became slurred. Her symptoms resolved before paramedics arrived, but she was taken to the ER anyway and sent home shortly after. A few hours later, two minutes after midnight on January 1, 1995, she suffered a full-blown stroke that left her unable to move her left side. Though she had made some progress three months later, Rosanna couldn’t accept the neurologist’s statement that she would never progress beyond where she was then.
“Being the eternal optimist, I always kept the thought in my head that I would regain everything I had lost,” she said. “But I was scared and struggled with not being able to do the things I had always been able to do before the stroke, even the simplest of things like tying my shoes, buttoning a blouse or zipping up my jeans.”
So Rosanna started adapting and inventing things right away.
As an artist, Rosanna had always been innovative. When artists want to create something, they figure out ways to make their visions come to life, and Rosanna’s artistic training carried over into her new life.
It was Rosanna’s occupational therapist who first noticed her inventive approach to recovery. Thinking that Rosanna’s innovations could assist others, she told her about the Rehabilitation Engineering and Technology (RET) Certificate Program through San Francisco State University, which trains graduate students to design tools that help people with disabilities gain more independence, get jobs and enjoy recreational activities. Going back to school was a daunting prospect for Rosanna. “I didn’t even know if my brain worked well enough for it,” she recalled. “But I was willing to test it.”
Rosanna’s CanDo Cutting Board
Luckily her brain did work. Rosanna went on to earn her RET Certificate and develop the One Hand CanDo Cutting Board, a patent-pending chopping board designed specifically for one-handed use (onehandcan.com). The CanDo Board cleverly uses a combination of prongs and bands to assist the one-handed chef in chopping, dicing and grating. Rosanna regularly conducts one-handed cooking demonstrations, teaching participants how to chop onions, grate cheese and prep garlic, along with other adaptations. She calls herself a motivational cook.
Her inventions don’t stop in the kitchen though. She also sculpts stone and creates custom jewelry. She has adapted her art tools, like her chisel, for one-handed use and has created a system for casting intricate wax jewelry models for gold and silver with only one hand.
Today, Rosanna walks well with a supportive foot brace. She still has trouble with her left arm, but she can raise it to shoulder height and use it for gross motor activities like carrying laundry or securing vegetables on her chopping board. She can hold things with her left thumb — all a far cry from what she was told she would ever be able to do.
Already a sought-after speaker, inventor and designer, Rosanna also maintains a website and video series called “One Hand Can” where she talks about post-stroke issues and offers solutions to one-handed people trying to “re-able” their lives in a two-handed world. Beginning this issue, readers can also find Rosanna’s inventive advice in Stroke Connection, as she pens a regular tips column about one-handed living.
She recognizes that many survivors feel daunted by the idea of adapting their lives, especially if they aren’t inherently creative. “It’s really not about creativity,” she said. “I believe anybody can do whatever they want as long as they are willing to engage their self-love, ingenuity, patience and perseverance. Creativity is secondary.” She also encourages survivors to utilize their network and ask for ideas from other people, including her, if they can’t figure out how to get something done.
Rosanna finds a more entertaining use for her walking stick
Even with the growing popularity of her chopping board and cooking demonstrations, Rosanna doesn’t want to be known only for innovative cooking tips. Still, she maintains that cooking is the single most important form of rehab for a survivor because it helps regain independence, builds confidence and teaches skills that translate to other areas of life. It also strengthens the ability to think through steps, especially if, like Rosanna, one’s deductive reasoning was affected.
Rosanna gets excited as she describes a survivor who contacted her after buying her CanDo board. “He emailed saying that he didn’t think he could do anything. But now he’s having a blast. He can cook meals for his wife and son.”
She says that her inventions change her life because they’re changing other people’s lives.
And that’s something she can get used to.
Editor’s Note: We’re excited to have Rosanna on board as a regular tips columnist for our Everyday Survival department. Have a task you’d like Rosanna to write about? We want to hear from you! Send your tip requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.